SHERIDAN — For 17 years, the Bighorn National Forest ran under the direction of Bill Bass before his retirement in June. Throughout the summer and fall months, John Kidd from Idaho and Donna Mickley from Oregon filled in as interim supervisors. Starting at the end of January, Andrew Johnson will carry the title of Bighorn National Forest supervisor.

This will be Johnson’s first experience as full-time supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service, but he brings 15 years of Forest Service work into the position. He started his USFS career in central Utah, and then moved to Arizona, Montana and eventually his current post with the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota.

“I was ready to get back to the West, so I’m looking forward to moving to Wyoming,” Johnson said.

A four-month assignment as deputy forest supervisor for the Coronado National Forest in Arizona put the upcoming position into perspective for him a bit, but he understands the learning curve ahead.

“I have a lot to learn about the Bighorn National Forest and the communities that surround it and the people that love it,” Johnson said.

He remains eager to learn about the focus of the work in the Bighorn, the resources the forest manages and issues specific to the 1,115,073-acre region.

Acting public affairs specialist for the Bighorn National Forest Sara Evans Kirol said the forest had consistent leadership in Bass. She said Johnson’s arrival will mark the first turnover in the position in nearly two decades. Acting supervisor, Mickley, will return to Oregon when Johnson arrives.

The Bighorn National Forest is 80 miles long and 30 miles wide, with elevations ranging from 5,500 feet to 13,167 feet at Cloud Peak, according to the forest’s website. Bighorn has 32 campgrounds, three group campgrounds, 10 picnic areas, two visitor centers, one ski area, eight lodges, two recreation lakes, three scenic byways and more than 1,200 miles of trails.

On Feb. 22, 1897, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation creating the Big Horn Forest Reserve. President Theodore Roosevelt eventually changed the name to Bighorn National Forest in 1908.

The employees of Bighorn National Forest prioritize for the active range management program, as well as national focuses, including resource and timber management, restoration and resiliency.

“I’m going to be wading into learning what work the forest service is doing in that regard,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s first priority will be getting to know his employees and the people that make the forest so rich.

He, his wife and 4-year-old twin daughters appreciated the kindness shown while house hunting in Sheridan earlier this month and remain eager to interact with the community.

“It’ll be good to be back in a place with mountains, with lots of terrain,” Johnson said.

His second priority? Fly-fishing.

“It’s a different kind of fishing (in Minnesota) than it is in the West, so I’m looking forward to getting my fly rod back out and putting my spinning rods away for a while,” Johnson said.

Johnson will report for his new job starting at the end of January.